Sikh passengers at British airports will no longer be forced to remove their turbans for security checks, following protests from the community that the practice was “offensive.”
Under new security measures introduced in May, airport staff were given powers to remove turbans if they set off metal detector alarm. In future, however, Sikhs will have their turbans scanned by a hand-held wand.
The move follows representation from prominent members of the community that Sikhs being forced to remove their turbans in public was “humiliating and offensive.” They suggested that, if necessary, the passenger be taken to a private place for further checks.
“It is considered very offensive to remove or touch a Sikh's turban, especially in public. It's the equivalent of asking someone to undergo a strip search in public in western culture. Different things are considered insulting in different cultures — there are different ways of upsetting people, and we should try to keep that to a minimum. If there is a cause for concern, the individual should be taken into a private place where they can be searched, with the lightest possible touch,” said Dr. Indrajit Singh, adviser to the Commission for Racial Equality. The Sikhs also alleged that they were being unfairly targeted.
“As far as I am aware, there haven't been any exploding turbans at airports yet. Just because Osama bin Laden chooses to wear one doesn't mean that Sikhs should have to suffer,” said Harmander Singh, principal adviser to Sikhs in England.
The Department for Transport said it would work with airport authorities and religious communities to find “an acceptable long-term solution.”